UK Games Tax Relief - Please Can We Have a Cultural Test Which Doesn't Suck

So the UK Games industry is finally getting some TAX breaks originally outlined back in 2012.

A "tax relief for video games development".

It's taken a while and I can't be more excited to see the UK government taking some notice of an important industry which in all honesty until very recently hasn't had the support it deserves in the UK. Still we are all still here, ready to pick ourselves up and to hopefully attract some great games companies (back) to the UK and really make this industry shine again!

If you want to understand the direct information on what is happening there is a published PDF which outlines the whole thing in an easy to read way available here from UKIE. I highly reccomend you read it, especially if you are in the games industry in the UK. You can also get in touch with UKIE here

I'm not going to cover the whole thing as in all honesty I'm just happy the industry is getting some recognition here. There is one issue/worry I would like to point out and that is to do with the "cultural test" which in my opinion is poorly aimed and wholly incompatible with what games are:

The Cultural Test

Its important to note that the final cultural test has yet to be published so this is subject to change. I hope this post will at least bring about some awareness on why it has to. Below are the main criteria (which are what I have a problem with) outlined for ease of reading:

1. The percentage of the game that is set in the UK or another country in the EEA.

2. The number of characters in the game that are from the UK or another country in the EEA.

3. Whether the game is based on a British story or a story relating to another country in the EAA.

4. The percentage of the dialogue that is in English or another regional or minority language.

5. The level of contribution of the game to 'the promotion, development or enhancement of British culture'.

So there they are... and I'm going to bullet my concerns underneath with their associated numbers but my overarching feeling is that this has been written for someone who doesn't understand the games industry and if they do... only understands one particular facet of it. This "cultural test" draft fits story driven content but I would argue the huge proportion if not the majority of games don't fall into that category.

1.

How many games have real world locations in them?. How many games actually even have a concept of location in them? Games more often than not exist in imaginary places and a lot of games dont even exist within the concept of a space or location. If you want to encourage an industry within the UK don't limit the creativity of a games company before they even come up with that they want to make.

If you want an example... Minecraft is a perfect one. One cant even fathom how much it has done for the industry in Sweden!

Minecraft Backdrop

Possibly the most culturally siginificant game to the industry and gamers ever has no official location associated with it. It is of course a sandbox game, much like UemeU (Omnigon Games's game) which has no fixed locations, not preconditioned story or plot as that is created by the players themselves.

2.

Once again, what happens if a game doesn't have a character or characters? How many puzzle games for example have characters? The vast majrity don't. Take a look at the most popular mobile games ever made and decide whether they have characters or not. Oh and what about Non-human characters? Let's take an old game as an example this time... Can a worm be from the UK?

Earthworm Jim

3.

I think we are seeing a trend here. Games don't always have stories. Sure there are some fantastic games which DO have stories but a huge amount dont.
Sugeon Simulator Screenshot To name a recent game which has no story which has had huge success and is a great game from a UK developers Bossa Studios called "Surgeon Simulator"!

4.

Games don't always have dialogue. I feel like this is getting repetative.

5.

As long as 5.) is measured effectively. If it's by the same person who made up the weighting of the points above then I hope they go and learn a bit more about the games industry and the way it influences culture all around the world.

I didn't have an issue with any of the other points which you can read about in the PDF I linked to in the opening paragraphs outlining the who issue.

Conclusion

I'm very happy that this is starting to happen in the UK. We have very talented people here who all happily jet off to other places to work for great games companies simply because the UK is not the place for large or even just good games companies to be. There are "joke" tweets about people migrating back from Cananda specifically because of these tax breaks.

However if the conditions which need to be met are off the mark like the ones above I have little hope that it will help the UK games industry much at all when the majority of games being produced cannot qualify (at least without fudging it). Even worse is if companies only make games according to the things outlined in the cultrual test above it will damage the industry and we will stagnate.

This is a good first step in the right direction where the UK can shine in the games industry. However the weighting and conditions for passing the "Cultural Test" need to be ammended. The current ones outlined above do not fit the games industry and are most certainly not future proof.

Best,

Jeremy Hindle
CEO Omnigon Games
@Mentioum